SketchUp For Dummies
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SketchUp’s 3D Warehouseis a huge online collection of 3D models that is searchable and, most important, free for everyone to use. To access the 3D Warehouse, all you need is an Internet connection. If you have a SketchUp model that you want to share with the world, share with just a few people or store on SketchUp’s servers for safekeeping, the 3D Warehouse is where you put it.

SketchUp 3D Warehouse SketchUp's 3D Warehouse is chock-full of models shared by people like you.

Why use SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse?

Let’s dispel a popular misconception right away: When you upload a model to SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, you aren’t automatically donating your hard work to the world — you can make uploaded models and collections private.

With that understanding, here are some awesome reasons to use the 3D Warehouse:

  • Sharing is good for your self-esteem. To be clear, you don’t need to subscribe to the nouveau-tech mindset that all information has to be free of charge. If you spent a lot of time on something and you don’t want to give it away, you shouldn’t have to. But if you’re proud of what you made, and sharing it with others would make you feel good, the 3D Warehouse offers a great way to contribute to the 3D modeling community.
  • Create your own personal component library. Because SketchUp can download models directly from the 3D Warehouse into the model you’re working on, making your own online collections is incredibly handy. Everything you upload is accessible anywhere you happen to be working.

For example, you can maintain a collection of the furniture in your house. Whenever you need a model of your sofa, you can just download it — no matter what computer you’re using.

  • Explore uploaded models in 3D without having to download them. You can orbit, pan, and zoom around any model you can see on the 3D Warehouse — without having to download it into SketchUp first. If you want to show someone your model in 3D, you can just send them its 3D Warehouse link. Better yet, you can embed a 3D viewer window on your web page; anyone who visits your page can poke around.
  • It’s never a bad idea to have a backup. If all you’re looking to do is save a copy of your work in the cloud (where you can’t spill your coffee all over it), services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive are great choices. None of these, however, give you direct access to your models inside of SketchUp. When you upload something to the 3D Warehouse, it’s both safe and readily available. It’s also a good idea to keep a backup of everything on a removable USB drive and store it away from your computer, preferably in a different building.

Getting to SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse

You can get to SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse in two ways:
  • From SketchUp: Choose Window→3D Warehouse. A mini web browser opens right in front of your modeling window. In SketchUp for web, use Search to find and open 3D Warehouse.
  • From the web: Check out SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse on the web.

Accessing the 3D Warehouse from the web is a great way to hunt for and curate 3D models to quickly create component collections for use as you’re modeling.

Go ahead and poke around the 3D Warehouse. It’s amazing what you find; thousands of people add new content every day. Much of it isn’t very useful, but you still find plenty of interesting things to download and look at.

Taking apart strangers’ models is a great way to figure out how they’re built.

Find, preview, and download models in SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse

Before you get into sharing models, here’s a quick explanation of the most important thing you’ll do in 3D Warehouse: search, evaluate, and download 3D models:
  • Finding models: Once you’ve searched in 3D Warehouse, there are various ways to refine and improve your model search results. In particular, it’s recommended that you filter your results by either Popularity or Likes and using Categories (in the upper left of your search results) to filter out models that aren’t related to what you’re looking for.
  • Evaluating models for size and performance: Be careful about downloading models that are very big or complex. Unfortunately, a bad 3D Warehouse download can cripple your model. Keep the junk out by restricting the file size and polygon count of your searches.
  • Downloading models: If you’re using 3D Warehouse while modeling, models you download will import directly into SketchUp, where they are placed on the cursor of the Move tool. Move the cursor to the desired location in your model and then click to place the new component at that location. If you downloaded a SKP file from 3D Warehouse in a web browser, you can drag and drop that file into SketchUp to place it in your model.

Managing your SketchUp models online

3D Warehouse can sometimes feel like a free-for-all of individual models floating around in cyberspace. But if you use it intentionally, it’s actually a pretty organized place.

If you are downloading models, the image below shows the doodads and gadgets you should pay attention to on a model’s details page:

  • 3D model preview: This preview, which is available in a web browser only, enables you to hover over the image of a model and click 3D Model to preview the model using SketchUp’s camera tools. If you don’t have a mouse, press O for Orbit and H for Pan.
  • Statistics panel: The numbers that appear on this section of the page are all interesting and useful, but the ones you should pay closest attention to are Polygons and Materials. These tell you the model’s size in the three metrics that count most:
    • Polygons is 3D modeling shorthand for faces; the more you have, the harder SketchUp has to work to display your model. If you’re thinking about downloading a tree with 350,000 polygons, consider taking a vacation to Tahiti while SketchUp opens it.
    • Materials are similarly taxing on your computer’s performance, but they only come into play for models that have been heavily photo-textured.
    • Distance from Origin is how far away the geometry in a model is from the origin of that model. The bigger the number this is, the worse your model will perform when you initially load it into SketchUp. You can fix this, but beware: A model that is very far from the origin is likely to have other problems!
  • Related Collections: If the model you’re searching for doesn’t quite do the trick, it can be useful to browse related Collections compiled by other people who are interested in the same thing you are looking for.
SketchUp 3D Warehouse model Something’s fishy about this model in 3D Warehouse.

In addition to information about a model you’re looking at, either yours or someone else’s, you’ll find some valuable tools for curation and organization, just below the title of the model.

  • Like models: Liking a model by clicking its heart icon is a quick way to give it positive feedback. Likes make it easier for people to find useful 3D models. Whether or not you share models, you can help improve 3D Warehouse by liking things. Models you like are saved for you in My Content (on the Account menu).
  • Adds to Folders or Collections: One of the most productive things you can do on the 3D Warehouse is collect models — your own and other people’s. Make yourself empty collections for things like chairs, scale figures, trees, and star destroyers. Then fill them with the amazing models you find as you’re exploring. Back in SketchUp, in the Components panel, choose My Collections from the Collections drop-down menu, and there they are, ready to use in your own work. Collections are public, so if you prefer to keep your libraries private, use Folders instead. In SketchUp, able to access folders by going to My Content in the 3D Warehouse mini-browser.
  • Embed: Click here, and the 3D Warehouse serves up some HTML code that you can use to embed the model on a web page.

The Embed feature is especially important for product manufacturers, designers, and anyone else who wants to let people explore a model in 3D without leaving their website.

While we’re on the subject of SketchUp collections and folders, here’s how to create and manage them:
  1. Make sure you’re logged in to the 3D Warehouse.

    If you're logged in, you’ll see your username on the account drop-down menu at the top of every page in the Warehouse. If you’re not logged in, click Sign In (also at the top of every page) and enter your account credentials.

  2. Go to the model details page for a model you want to add to a Folder or Collection.
  3. To create a Folder or a Collection, click on the appropriate Folder or Collection icon.

    The Folder and Collections icons are located just below the lower-left corner of the image in the model details page. The Folder icon looks like a folder, and the Collection icon is right next to it.

    First things first: Decide how you want to organize things. Remember, folders are private to you; collections are visible to everybody. Then create a name for your new library. You can also create new folders or collections, using the icons on the My Content page.

  4. To add a model to an existing folder or collection, choose it from the list.

    As you create more folders and collections, you’ll see designations when you click the Folder or Collections icons. Add the model you are viewing to a folder or collection by choosing it from the list that appears.

If you find yourself working on the same kind of project over and over, these techniques for searching for, evaluating, and organizing models comes in handy big time. A well-organized stash of attractive, high-performance SketchUp components is one of your best weapons for dramatically speeding your modeling. After all, why draw something from scratch if a perfectly good something already exists?

Want to learn more? Check out our SketchUp Cheat Sheet.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Bill Fane was a doorknob designer for many years. Then, in 1996, he began teaching mechanical design, including courses in AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, and machine design. Having used AutoCAD since Version 2.17g debuted in 1986, Bill lectured on a wide range of AutoCAD and Inventor subjects at Autodesk University from 1995 to 2012. He has written extensively for CADalyst magazine.

Bill Fane is the author of AutoCAD For Dummies. He spent years as a product designer before becoming an educator focused on design tools. Mark Harrison is a product manager for Trimble, Inc., SketchUp's parent company. He studies learnability in 3D software. Josh Reilly is a training manager with Trimble and a longtime SketchUp instructor.

Bill Fane is the author of AutoCAD For Dummies. He spent years as a product designer before becoming an educator focused on design tools. Mark Harrison is a product manager for Trimble, Inc., SketchUp's parent company. He studies learnability in 3D software. Josh Reilly is a training manager with Trimble and a longtime SketchUp instructor.

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